‘Cats drop two of three to Mountaineers

Max Petrunya

The Villanova baseball team traveled to Morgantown, W.V. this weekend where they dropped two games in a series of three against the Mountaineers at Hawley Field.

The Wildcats (23-20 overall, 6-11 in the Big East) came into this Big East series riding a two-game winning streak after beating local rivals Temple and St. Joe’s in two Diamond Five match-ups. However, in what baseball purists would classify as nightmare situations to lose games, the Wildcats were dealt two tough losses by the Mountaineers (29-15 overall, 9-9 in the Big East) on Friday and Saturday, salvaging a hard-fought win Sunday before their trip back to the Main Line.

Game one, played on Friday, brought with it a season-high five errors for the Wildcats in what ended as a 9-4 victory for WVU. Leading 4-2 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, thanks in part to senior first baseman Jeremy Hunt’s first inning three run homer, the Wildcats committed three errors and allowed six runs on one hit as WVU reclaimed the lead, 8-4.

After loading the bases in the sixth, the Mountaineers scored four straight runs on two walks, a single, and a fielding error, before two sacrifice flies accounted for the final two runs of the inning. WVU would pick up one more run in the eighth to finish the victory, 9-4. The damage from the sixth inning was all the Mountaineers needed as they held ‘Nova to just two hits and no runs in the final four innings.

“We didn’t play good defense,” coach Joe Godri said. “We played in a tough environment and made critical errors.”

Mike Lorre (3-5) took the loss for the Wildcats. In five innings he allowed two earned runs on six hits and recorded six strikeouts in 112 pitches. The team finished with eight hits and five errors, tying their season high mark from March 4 in their 12-10 loss to Lafayette.

“This game was basically a carbon copy of our St. Joe’s game, where we made four errors but won,” Godri said. “You’re not going to beat a Big East team like WVU making that many errors.”

In game two on Saturday, the Wildcats were able to bounce back from their first game’s errors and challenge the Mountaineers.

The Wildcats trailed most of the game, but junior Frank Cirone’s RBI single in the top of the eighth tied the game at 6-6. After a bases-loaded, inning-ending double play by the Mountaineers in the eighth and a hitless ninth for the Wildcats, Villanova took the field in the bottom of the inning tied with WVU.

Stan Posluszny hit a walk off home run off a 2-2 pitch to lead off the ninth, giving WVU their second victory in as many days over the Wildcats.

Villanova out hit WVU 13-10, marking the fourth loss in 21 games for the Cats when out hitting opponents.

“It’s always tough to lose on a walk-off,” Godri said. “Once Mulvey and WVU settled down, I thought we had it.”

Junior pitcher Kevin Mulvey pitched a no decision despite throwing seven strikeouts in seven innings, while allowing nine hits and six runs, three earned.

“We talked on the bus after game two and I told the kids, we have been digging holes for ourselves all year and digging out of them,” said Godri. “Let’s get back under control.”

And get under control they did. After two tough losses, the Wildcats defeated the Mountaineers in game three on Sunday 12-9.

In a game that saw three ties and three lead changes, two coming in the final three innings, the Wildcats again went into the top of the ninth inning tied 9-9.

Freshman pinch hitter Joe Cotter drove in the go-ahead run, with Frank Cirone driving in the final run to give Villanova the win.

WVU loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but senior Kris Molloy made a game saving diving catch to give the ‘Cats the win. Molloy also hit a game tying grand slam for Villanova in the top of the fourth.

“I thought he was hit by a pitch earlier in the at bat that the umpire didn’t call,” Godri said. They both argued the decision to no avail before Molloy went back in the box and wound up hitting the grand slam.

Twenty-three of 25 Wildcats played in what Godri dubbed as a “must win game.” Five different pitchers threw in the contest, with sophomore Gus Guida getting the win. Guida threw two innings, striking out two while letting up four hits and one earned run on 50 pitches.

“This win was a big step for the program. It showed the growth the program has made in the last couple years,” Godri said. “The decision to dig in and fight after losing two tough games in a row shows the growth mentally of Villanova baseball, and we are a better team for it.”

The Wildcats head into the final stretch of the season one game out of the playoffs. They will play a three-game series against Big East newcomers Cincinnati at home and Louisville on the road before ending the season at home against the No. 8 ranked team in the nation, Notre Dame.

“Notre Dame is a good team…they will be tough,” Godri said. “But I have a good feeling about our upcoming series because we match up well with Louisville and Cincinnati. After this weekend, we showed we can definitely compete in the Big East. We showed our opponents that when you play Villanova, we will battle.